DOJ, FTC Looking at Apple Subscription Rules

Apple’s recent policy changes requiring publishers to include in-app subscription and purchase options for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad have apparently caught the watchful eye of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. The two agencies are looking into the new policy, but haven’t launched a formal investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

DOJ, FTC are looking into Apple’s new in-app sales rules

The rules Apple is imposing on developers require them to include an in-app purchase option whenever they offer a system for purchases and rentals outside of the application. Sticking with its standard App Store policy, Apple will take a 30 percent cut from sales and rentals made within apps.

Companies can offer subscriptions, rentals and sales outside of their apps, but Apple is prohibiting them from including in-app links to their online stores.

Santa Clara University’s High Tech Law Institute director Eric Goldman called blocking apps from linking to Web-based stores is “a pretty aggressive position.”

“It seems like that’s purely in the interests of Apple trying to restrict people doing transactions they don’t get a cut from,” he said.

The U.S. agencies are interested in whether or not Apple’s new policy crosses over into antitrust territory. Just because the agencies are looking at the new terms and conditions, however, doesn’t necessarily mean Apple is violating any laws, or that any action will be taken against the company.

The agencies haven’t launched a formal investigation into the matter, either.

Apple hasn’t commented on the situation.